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Meet our board

Below is a list of our Board of Directors and Trustees.

Guru Naidoo – Chair

Guru started his career at Middlesbrough Borough Council, where he spent 18 years in various personnel development roles, before spending two years as the City of York’s organisational development manager. For 15 years, Guru was the Business Support Director and Company Secretary for Broadacres Housing Association. Guru is a member of the Chartered Institute of Housing, and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

After his retirement, Guru sought opportunities to continue to help the public, and joined the Board of Catalyst in 2014, and was appointed as Chair of the Board in 2016, where he continues to push Catalyst to strive for excellence in all facets of the organisation.

Lesley Cooke – Vice Chair

Lesley recently retired from a varied professional employment history. Having worked in all sectors – public, private and voluntary, as well as having been self-employed over the years. She is born in Stockton – educated locally, attended Richard Hind School, trained as a diagnostic radiographer at Stockton and Thornaby Hospital moving to the then new North Tees Hospital in 1974.

She has always been involved in the voluntary sector as an active leader in the Scout Association for over 20 years. She was a volunteer and paid staff member for Playgroup Network including tutor and quality assurance. Lesley fully supported her children throughout their school life as a PTA member of both junior and senior schools. At the behest of her granddaughter, Lesley has gone full circle and is now back in the school setting as a volunteer to help children read.

After working extensively with public sector managing the Children’s Playbus and delivering childcare training across many colleges and other providers, Lesley continued as a consultant delivering and assessing management qualifications primarily in the local authority and medical settings. Lesley also spent 8 years working for the probation service delivering personal development to offenders before becoming a magistrate for Teesside Bench. She ended her “working life” as a quality assurance manager for a local community learning establishment but is still actively involved in charities as a volunteer.

When Lesley became a Catalyst board member, over 4 years ago, her primary vision was and still is for Catalyst to be a strong voice for the voluntary sector.

Dr Mike Fearn

Mike Fearn brings blended knowledge of public, voluntary and private sectors. With an eclectic range of qualifications ranging from religious studies, social psychology, education, management and IT service delivery, and with practical experience gained in a range of contexts he brings a broad base of knowledge to the role and an enquiring outlook.

Mike leads third-sector engagement for a UK-based international technology company. Before this, Mike had a varied career with the largest of the UK National Lottery distributors. During this period, he started as a Grants Officer, assessing grant applications for a range of funding programmes and gaining broad insight into organisations and activities within the sector. In this role he also carried out grant management work, requiring focussed and detailed work with the organisations receiving lottery funding. Mike progressed into service design, improving the tools and processes employed by the fund when interacting with applicants and grant-holders. This led to a move into technology, ensuring that the process improvements were reflected in the Fund’s main grant-making system. He left the Fund as Senior Head of Systems with a broad remit for IT delivery from business case generation through design, implementation, management through to benefits realisation.

This background in the Lottery Fund led Mike to a career in IT with a specific focus on the requirements of the third sector. Mike joined the board in 2020 when seeking local opportunities to contribute to the sector. Inspired by overwhelming positivity and voluntary effort in response to the COVID crisis, he wanted to engage directly in the sector.

Steve Nelson

Steve is a retired Local Government Manager/Welfare Rights Officer. Steve is an active member of Stockton Borough’s wider community. Steve has dual roles as Councillor for Norton North Ward and also Cabinet Member for Access, Communities & Community Safety. Steve is a Governor at Fredrick Nattrass School. He is the chair of Stockton’s Safer Stockton partnership and also Stockton’s Taxi Trade Liaison Meetings.

As well as all of this Steve is a Director of Thirteen Housing Group and also on the board of FRADE; a furniture re-use charity. He is an experienced Board member of Catalyst and has a particular interest in ensuring that the Stockton Volunteers project is performing at its best.

Dr Helen Dudiak

Dr Helen Dudiak has worked in Higher Education Institutions for over 20 years with much of that time being spent at Teesside University within the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Law. Throughout her career in academia she has encouraged students to engage with volunteering opportunities as a way of gaining experience and making a positive contribution to society. Her role as Associate Dean (Enterprise & Business Engagement) provides her with an extensive network both within the University and in the region and she is keen to utilise this for the benefit of the voluntary sector. Helen joined the board of Catalyst in 2018. She is also a Trustee for ACTES and Tees Valley Education where she is also a member of their Standards Board.

Chris Marshall

Chris has worked in the housing sector for 15 years, with experience of housing management, customer engagement and regeneration, most recently leading teams aspiring to deliver excellent services to customers. Chris is currently the Senior Neighbourhoods Manager for Thirteen, with responsibility for Stockton and Darlington. Thirteen is a caring landlord and housing developer, providing homes for rent and sale.

Chris has a vision for Catalyst to act as an innovative connector, to effectively join the dots between the voluntary sector to add the greatest value to the people of Stockton.

Andrew Carlton – Trustee

Andrew is a 34-year-old Dad of two boys living in Houghton-le-Spring with his fiancée. When he’s not working hard he likes to take time out to experience the great outdoors and keenly follow our local football teams.

He has worked in the social housing sector since 2008 and qualified with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in 2013.  He joined North Star Housing Group in 2018 as Head of Finance and was part of the team that consolidated North Star’s Group structure and refinanced their loan book in 2020.

During 2017 he undertook a secondment in the Charitable sector with the registered charity of Sunderland Football Club, the Foundation of Light as Head of Finance.  During an exciting time, the charity restructured and delivered key projects to absorb the pressures of funding challenges.

Andrew also has experience in Financial Reporting, Treasury Management, Business Planning, Risk Management, Governance and Procurement.

He is keen to be part of an organisation that has a demonstrable positive impact in our region, supporting communities and improving the lives of people who live in the Tees Valley.

Catalyst is an organisation that enables capacity in the VCSE sector and I wanted to use my skills and experience to further enhance this capacity.


Vikkie Wilkinson CMgr FCMI

Over the last twenty years, Vikkie has worked with a range of third sector organisations across the North East in both strategic and operational roles. These have included employability and training,  advice and information services, grant making and infrastructure organisations similar to Catalyst.

Vikkie is currently leading the Step Forward Tees Valley programme for Humankind.  Step Forward Tees Valley helps people across the Tees Valley overcome barriers so that they can move forward with their lives and the lead partner is Humankind, a national charity with North East roots whose vision is for people of all ages to be safe, building ambitions for the future and reaching towards their full potential.

Vikkie is passionate about supporting people and communities to make positive changes for stronger futures.  Joining the board at Catalyst provides an opportunity to share her experiences and ensure that Catalyst continues to be a strong representative for the VCSE sector in Stockton on Tees.

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